Melissa Chiu
Museum Director, Asia Society

What is the artist's role in society?

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Artists have the most solitary and social interconnected existence.

Melissa Chiu

Melissa Chiu, Museum Director and Curator for Contemporary Asian and Asian-American art at the Asia Society, has had a long involvement with Asian contemporary art and is recognized as a leading authority in the field. Prior to working at the Asia Society, she served as the founding Director of the Asia-Australia Arts Centre in Sydney, a non-profit contemporary art center devoted to promoting dialogue in the Asia-Pacific region among artists, writers, curators and filmmakers.

Additionally, Ms. Chiu has curated over thirty exhibitions with artists from Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Thailand and Japan, among others. She was a founding member of the Asian Contemporary Art Consortium and a driving force behind the establishment of Asian Contemporary Art Week, which will mark its sixth year in New York next Spring.

Melissa Chiu received her B.A. from the University of Western Sydney and her M.A. from the College of Fine Arts, University of South Wales. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Western Sydney and has authored many artist monographs and conference papers and has published widely in journals, magazines and for exhibition catalogues. Ms. Chiu has been a faculty member of the Rhode Island School of Design where she taught Asian contemporary art and design. She has also served on a number of boards and grant panels, including the New York State Council on the Arts, Museums Grant Committee and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. 


Question: What is an artist’s role in society?

Melissa Chiu: To be an artist is a very kind of solitary existence. You create . . . most of them create works in . . . by themselves in their studio environment. So I think for them to think that they represent a cultural or a nation, or a work collectively, I think, is a difficult concept for all of them. I think that they create works that might offer very important commentary on certain things; but I don’t know that they would ever feel like they could be involved in the kind of preservation of a local culture. I think that their works might be interpreted in that way, but I don’t know that any of them would ever feel that that was their role within society.


Recorded on: 7/11/07